I Couldn't Care Less: Four Little Words
A couple of months ago I saw a tweet floating around twitter, asking what advice you would give to carers. Now bear in mind that twitter requires you to be pithy. You have 140 characters maximum, and that includes the username of the person you are sending the tweet to. Bear in mind also that I do not really do pithy. I have lots of things to say and I would rather get it said and said properly. You might reasonable argue on the strength of those two points that twitter isn't really the place for me. But I like the challenge, and it turns out that you can say quite a lot in 140 characters. I sometimes find myself padding out tweets in order to use up my allocation. But in this instance I needed four words to answer the question. Just four words. Four.
So what does a carer most need to know? Well, there's a lot I could tell them, from my own experience. But then from my own experience I can safely say that that the knowledge I have of the experience of others clearly indicates that my experience is not necessarily representative. I knew that anyway, of course. Not only do services vary greatly but there are so many different reasons why a person might need care, and so many ways in which so many different people will respond to those reasons. They may have only one ailment, they may have many. They may be mentally ill, or physically ill, or both. As may you, in fact. You're not superman and even if you are a picture of general well-being now, don't expect that too last the duration. Although it might, I have no idea.
There are too many variables to count. Do you have friends and family who can, or will, help? Are they nearby? Do you have transport, money, a job, secure accommodation? Where do you live? How old are you? What is your relationship to the person being cared for? Are you there primary carer, or do you share the responsibility with others?
I could, of course, have told them about Doctor Who. But then some people who, and I really can't understand these people, but there it is, don't like Doctor Who. There are other fictional, and actual, sources of individual inspiration, but then you might not be that sort. As I say, a million things could vary. I have never met a carer who's situation is even similar to mine. Even at a group for carers of people with mental health problems, the issues where monumentally diverse. One person could easily spend the entire two hours telling us briefly about what had happened to them in the last month. I'm not joking. Get ready for that to be a fact of your life. Strap yourself in. This isn't going to be easy, or fun. It frequently won't feel like you're making any progress. You'll probably wonder if it's time to chuck in the towel, if anything can be done or if you're just fighting a losing battle. Sometimes the best reward can be that you've kept your loved one going, even if they are, by nature of their condition, unreasonably abusive towards you personally in spite of it. It can take you to the brink. Don't panic would have been a good choice, I suppose. But plagiarism isn't my thing and I can't imagine for a second that Douglas failed to realise that this is the best way to make a reasonable person panic. That was probably the joke, really. Instead I have a message that I offer not just to carers but to anyone. All of the things I applied to the life of a carer might apply to you, and yet none of them may apply to you, even though you are a carer.
You can do this.